The story ends with a boy, leaning against a barn door, squinting at the sun.
He steps out of the dark barn, his hair buzz-cut fresh, overalls hand-me-down big, one strap sliding off a bony shoulder.
The boy does not smile as he checks the cloudless sky. Does he notice the photographer taking his picture?
The boy in the photograph looks like someone you know. All cheekbones and pointed chin. Father? Uncle? But how can that be? He is young and you are old.
You lift the photograph from the box under your bed, careful to first remove a nickel and a leather-bound book. You could rub the coin’s smoothed ridges for hours, the weight of the book keeping you safe on the bed. But touch the black-and-white photograph and you float, not sure where you are.
Holding the photograph, you scan the sky above the boy for a clue. Maybe a falcon will break the endless space, opening the story before it flutters away. But the sky remains indifferent to the scene below.
Why does the photograph scare you? It’s only overalls. A haircut. A boy. A barn.
Something you cannot stop is in the barn, in the picture that the boy will lock away long after the photographer opens the camera’s eye and lets the light in.
You count ten, nine, eight and come back, dropping the photograph to the floor.
The story begins with a boy, leaning against a barn door, squinting at the sun.
Phebe Jewell’s work appears or is forthcoming in numerous journals, most recently Across the Margin, Fiction Attic, Pithead Chapel, *82 Review, and Drunk Monkeys. A teacher at Seattle Central College, she also volunteers for the Freedom Education Project Puget Sound, a nonprofit providing college courses for incarcerated women, trans-identified and gender non-conforming people in Washington State. Read her at https://phebejewellwrites.com.